Is EPUB 3 the One True Standard? – Discussion at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Charlie Stephenson, our Product Manager based in the UK, recently gave a spirited presentation on EPUB 3 at the Frankfurt Book Fair. EPUB is the open e-book standard created by the International Digital Publishing Forum, a standards organization for the book publishing industry. Charlie’s talk, titled “EPUB 3 – A Digital Publishing Panacea?” explored the current acceptance of the standard, issues with interoperability, and current alternatives.

Right to the core issue
Charlie’s presentation first dove into the issue of how EPUB 3 works in a cross-platform environment. He discussed how consumers are viewing content on a myriad of devices that have different OS’s, processing power, resolutions, and aspect ratios. EPUB 3 is trying to introduce a standard into this complex world, a daunting task to say the least, especially when companies like Amazon are actively avoiding the standard. Several education-focused vendors are adopting it, these are typically delivered in a closed-app environment.
His presentation brought up frankfurters (hot dogs for the US audience!), not because of the name of the host city, but as an analogy about EPUB 3. Charlie suggested that EPUB 3 is the wrapper (or bun) of the frankfurter, and HTML 5 is actually the inside parts with the meat, condiments, etc. He states EPUB 3 is more like a table of contents that can be produced by the print production team, while HTML 5 helps publications to really stand out and typically require more advanced programming and design skills.

Viable alternatives
Some groups (such as the AAP) are pushing an EPUB 3 Lite version which would hopefully provide a boost to slow EPUB 3 adoption by presenting a less complicated “Lite” version. The YUDU team are focusing on the app environment as the main strategy as opposed to a standard like EPUB 3. Apps help to build a broader brand experience, which simply isn’t possible with EPUB 3. They also can ensure a consistent user experience, even across platforms.

The EPUB 3 standard can cause some problems, and its usage is certainly hampered by limited or zero adoption from major players such as Amazon and Google e-books. Amazon’s rejection of EPUB 3 is especially damaging given the breadth of Kindle offerings. EPUB 3 still functions as a complement to the full features of HTML 5, but it remains to be seen if it can gain more momentum in the market.

As Charlie’s presentation made clear, YUDU as a company is not focusing on EPUB 3 development until it becomes the adopted standard used across the major platforms, and can deliver a consistent end-user experience – as soon as this is enabled, the YUDU team will be fully supportive. EPUB 3 files are only one small part of what can deliver a great cross platform reading experience that builds customer loyalty and brand engagement. E-book reading software is the other end of the equation, which is developed behind closed doors in the large ebook retailers of todays e-reading ecosystem.

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